Richly engaging historical adventure in the vein of The Winter Palace and The Malice of Fortune.
Muse is the story of the charismatic woman who was the inspiration behind Petrarch's sublime love poetry. Solange Le Blanc begins life in the tempestuous streets of 14th century Avignon, a city of men dominated by the Pope and his palace. When her mother, a harlot, dies in childbirth, Solange is raised by Benedictines who believe she has the gift of clairvoyance. Trained as a scribe, but troubled by disturbing visions and tempted by a more carnal life, she escapes to Avignon, where she becomes entangled in a love triangle with the poet Petrarch, becoming not only his muse but also his lover.
Later, when her gift for prophecy catches the Pope's ear, Solange becomes Pope Clement VI's mistress and confidante in the most celebrated court in Europe. When the plague kills a third of Avignon's population, Solange is accused of sorcery and is forced once again to reinvent herself and fight against a final, mortal conspiracy.
Muse is a sweeping historical epic that magically evokes the Renaissance, capturing a time and place caught between the shadows of the past and the promise of a new cultural awakening.
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I have at times expressed my enjoyment of historical novels, yet... I don't really pick them up very often. I have to be in a certain mood to really enjoy them. That is usually when I am on vacation, or have a weekend on my own with no distractions where I can really focus on stories like these.
'Muse' was certainly an intriguing novel, filled with court drama and the injustices of being female in an era that really treated women like crap. Solange is no exception, even though she attracts the attentions of a romantic, dashing and poetic soul who is, unfortunately, easily swayed by the promises of power. Petrarch was irritating to me, and his fickle love left a lot to be desired.
Unfortunately for Solange, even though she becomes a personal confidante to the Pope himself, the powers afforded to her are merely an illusion. Understanding that there was envy aimed towards her was a laughable concept the price she had to pay to bear this 'power' and influence. In this novel it was clear - whether poor or wearing the finest gowns and jewellery - the chains were ever present, tight and heavy, leaving their mark on the soul.
Mary Novik writes eloquently and with a beautiful style that has me curious about her other novels. Though there was not enough focus on Solange's abilities to satisfy me, there certainly was enough drama and misfortune to keep me intrigued to the end. I would certainly recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction.
I give Muse: